Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Ouarzazate- Boulmaine April 18th 2008

After a decent nights sleep we're up before daybreak, packed and ready to move on. On leaving Ouarzazate our road takes us along the northern side of the huge man-made reservoir of Barrage d' El-Mansour-Eddahbi. Stopping just outside town to get our first view of this enormous body of water and Nigel comments on the pile of feathers laying flattened in the road

" Looks like a Little Owl copped it last night" Glancing over, something didn't look right for road kill a la Little Owl so, on closer inspection, with elation and despair at the same time I pronounced, "Its a f****** Egyptian Nightjar !!!!" Within seconds it was a one winged Egyptian Nightjar as Rob moved quicker than a tramp for a fag butt to claim a trophy (nearly as quick as he is at meal times!!)
Egyptian Nightjar, or is it a Norwegian Blue!

We continued along the road for about 5km then took an unmade track down across the stony desert towards the reservoir. Immediately we are greeted by Gull-billed Terns (10) overhead with Great-crested Grebe (6) and Coot (30) on an otherwise seemingly desolate water. We then start walking along and around the waters edge and birds start to appear. The tamarisk bushes hold Olivaceous (5) Bonelli's (3), Subalpine (6) and Melodious Warblers (1) along with single Wood and Willow Warblers and a male Pied Flycatcher. A big long tailed 'warbler' flies from the undergrowth and into a bare bush, my first Rufous Bush-Chat! Waders are seen and heard with Greenshank, Common, Curlew and Wood Sandpiper. A Desert Lark pops up to give all a good view.
Desert Lark

Pied Flycatcher
More new birds come as a small group of Mallard belie the presence of four Marbled Duck swimming away and into the vegetation as a pair of Ruddy Shelduck fly around the corner. We then hear and see another target bird, a fabulous pair of Blue-cheeked Bee-eater's as they drift back and forth searching for insects. Here we also see Grey Heron(3), a roosting party of Night Heron (25), Little Egret (1) a distant Cormorant of the Moroccan race, Marsh Harrier and Black Tern (6). A very confiding Collared Pratincole provides great photo opportunities in the great light now (its getting warm!).

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater... our first views

Collared Pratincole

We head towards the town of Skoura, stopping for a great view of more Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters on roadside wires, and to venture into a small orchard where another male Pied Flycatcher gives us the run around briefly and add Northern Wheatear, Common Swift, Sand Martin and Turtle Dove. A single Crag Martin is also noted along with good views of Trumpeter Finch.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater....gor-geous!
We continue eastward, and as the desert becomes more desolate, we stop at a couple of sites for Mourning Wheatear but with no luck, though we do find our first Desert Wheatear, Tawny Pipit and I find the single breast feather of a Pharaohs' Eagle Owl secured on a scree top stunted bush where it is blowing a hooley!!
Reaching Skoura we decide not to fall into yesterday's trap of missing lunch, and settle for a tagine opposite the town square gardens. We soon realise that the Moroccans tend not to rush lunch in its preparation but the hot mint tea goes down surprisingly well!
Desert Wheatear

We push on to our destination of Boulmaine, getting brief glimpses of Serin and Laughing Dove en route from the car, and our first sightings of Cream-coloured Courser.
We reach the desert town of Boulmaine late afternoon and soon secure our accommodation for the night at the birder-famous 'Soleil bleu'.
With our gear dumped we head off towards the Tagdilt Track to the east of the town. The Tagdilt Track is exactly that- a nondiscript unmarked dirt track that heads south-east from the town over the brushy plains which appear to stretch for miles. It first passes through the out of town rubbish tip that every Moroccan settlement appeared to have, or more over, the nearest place to the town with no houses where everything is dumped and left to blow across the countryside! Connected to these dumps are packs of feral dogs that look quite fierce but probably use this as their only line of defence, bending down as if picking up a stone soon has them on their toes! Driving along the track we first see a flock of 60 Short-toed Lark seemingly following the course of a dry wadi. Pretty soon we are in lark heaven racking up Bar-tailed(6), Temminck's Horned (6), Hoopoe (2) and unanimously, best of all Thick-billed Lark (5). The track constantly splits where it crosses the numerous small wadis, not a problem for a four-wheel drive, but slightly more interesting in a Peugot 306! We succsessfully negotiate two of these but the third is just a wadi to far, so we head back towards town, picking up more Desert Wheatear (6) Red-rumped Wheatear (3) Northern Wheatear (3) Cream-coloured Courser (9) a couple of Kestrel and singles of Marsh Harrier and Long-legged Buzzard. As the light begins to fade a movement of some 600 Common Swift heads north up the valley.
Locals heading off to the third wadi, throwing their heads back with laughter!
Cream-coloured Courser... a bird most striking from behind, fortunately!

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